Local News

Court ruling a boon to Tribal health care

While SEARHC and Sitka Community Hospital share many of the same obligations to provide care without regard for a patient’s ability to pay, there is one little-discussed component of the Affordable Care Act unique to SEARHC: The law permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which expands Indian Health Service funding, and updates its priorities.

Charles Clement is the CEO of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

“We see a lot of positive possibilities. It doesn’t necessarily streamline our funding sources now, but it gives us a certain amount of autonomy in terms of modeling our business, or modeling our practice, to market demands and market desires.”

Clement says the new priorities in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act make it easier to participate in services like nursing homes or assisted living, for instance.

But Clement says that some of the basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act – like expanding the payer base through the individual mandate – will help SEARHC, just like any other rural hospital.

“In many communities, we’re the only provider in town. And if someone comes to us and needs services, we provide those services without regard for their ability to pay, whether they’re Alaska Native, American Indian, or they’re not.”

Clement says he learned of the Supreme Court ruling when he turned on the news this morning. He anticipates that Congress – regardless of who wins the White House – will make adjustments to some of the more controversial provisions. “There are still a lot of unknowns out there,” he says.

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